Whilst buying in cholesterol lowering grub yesterday, in the form of bags of mixed nuts (YUCK – is there a less appetising food source out there than the walnut?) Apples (again YUCK, no matter what my web dieticians tell me an apple a day is never going to replace the delights of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.) And gigantic bags of kale (something I’d successfully avoided until 2 months ago), I spied The Peanuts Movie DVD and forked out a tenner on it . Opening it at home I found a Snoopy pencil topper inside. Overcome with surprise and delight I forgot that the Snoopy topper had probably been manufactured in a Chinese sweat shop and promptly ran to the kitchen drawer, in search of a pencil to stick Snoopy on top of. Not behaviour associated with a 55 year old but, you see, my 1970’s Peanuts loving inner child was re-surfacing.
I never got around to seeing Peanuts at the flicks, where I could have seen it in glorious 3D. Instead I watched it last night in bog standard 2D, which would still have made your average early 20th century individual believe in magic. And The Peanuts Movie is magical, whatever its mixed reviews have said (Ah, the curse of mixed reviews.)
I don’t know what I was expecting when I flicked the play button but what I got was a beautifully animated, charming, full of full-on colour, absolutely faithful rendering of the Peanuts universe – the telephones are gigantic 1970’s versions; there are no signs of today’s technology; the kids play outside and squiggly lines appear, amidst all the CGI, to indicate eyebrows, mouths, wisps of hair and Woodstock speech bubbles. Best of all, Charlie Brown’s thoughts are rendered in the style of the original black and white comic strip in a lovely nod to his creator.
The best gag in the film is when the kids write book reports and Charlie is determined to choose the greatest book ever written, to impress his little red haired girl. Peppermint Patty confidently tells him that this book is Leo’s Toy Store, by Warren Peace.
This movie was produced by Charles M Schulz’s son and grandson and it’s clear they wanted their dad’s (and grandad’s) memory to live on in today’s CGI, hi-tech world. The movie is credited to Schulz and has actually been written by Schulz, in that the entire film is a series of episodes taken from the original comic strip and linked together to form a kind of story arc for Charlie Brown, which sees the little red haired girl move into his street and Charlie Brown’s subsequent attempts to win her heart. As far as I know the little red haired girl never appeared in the original comic strips, probably as a sign of her unattainability. This is referenced in the movie by allowing the viewer to only see the back of her head, until the end when she and Charlie finally come face to face (Ahh…)
Nothing is explained in this film, it relies on the fact that if you paid for a cinema ticket then you’re probably a die-hard Charlie Brown fan, therefore there’s no explaining to do. So Linus drags his blanket around, Snoopy flies around atop his dog house engaging in dog fights (get it) with the Red Baron, Lucy sighs whenever Schroeder is around, Snoopy uses a typewriter etc etc.
I became a Charlie Brown fan during the early 70’s (son No.2 is named after him) I was entirely alone in my love for Peanuts. I was probably drawn to the philosophical nature of it all. To Charlie’s ever present sense of failure and inadequacy. I used to take one of my books into school and read it during lunch break, once or twice showing the book to friends, in my desire to share this brilliant stuff around, and was universally met by a striking non-interest. One friend, in particular, found the fact that Snoopy flew around on top of a dog house to be unfathomably stupid and not funny at all. Leaving me in the kind of school-based isolation, regarding my Peanuts devotion, that Charlie himself felt so keenly.
This is just a part of my ancient, extensive Peanuts book collection.
This one shows the very early, less engaging, renditions of the Peanuts gang.
But the real point of this post was that, during the movie, I had a sort of eureka moment. A moment so profound I wondered why I had never realised – the thing that I suddenly realised – before.
Nick Park, of Wallace and Gromit fame, is 57, that’s just two years older than me. That means that Nick Park and I are from the same generation, which means that maybe he read the Peanuts comic strip too, in the paper before heading off to school. And maybe Charlie Brown and Snoopy entered his consciousness, in the same way they entered mine and maybe, just maybe, Nick Park unconsciously referenced the bald, wide mouthed Charlie Brown and the very un dog-like Snoopy when he created the bald, wide mouthed Wallace and the un dog-like Gromit.
I’m going with this theory. I think it’s spot on. Wallace too fails at everything, just like Charlie’s attempts to fly his kite, kick that ball and win the girl (although this movie rectifies that situation) always fail. And yet Wallace and Charlie both remain ever hopeful that things will turn out ok. Snoopy is clever, wily, a thinker, sometimes dismissive of his owner’s behaviour and yet always loyal – just like Gromit. And when you really look at Gromit, isn’t he just Snoopy made out of clay?
What do you think?
I have not tested this theory out over the internet, preferring to believe that only I have had this eureka moment.
The Peanuts Movie is lovely – an innocent, welcome antidote to the more ‘knowing’, laced with humour that only the adults will get, kids’ animated movies out there. It took me back to childhood and it made me smile – a smile as big as Charlie Brown’s.